Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Busy and Busier

Things just keep on a-runnin' around here. Business, homeschooling, taking care of the family and seems like an ever-running stream of doings and needs. Not in a bad way, mind you. Just in a constant way.

Things on my mind and/or front burner these days include:

Starting an indoor garden using window boxes. I plan to grow lettuce, spinach, and some herbs. The main holdup is that it is mighty difficult to find seeds in the store in november! :) Will have to order some online.....which means this could take me days or weeks to accomplish simply because it's so easy for me to forget.

Christmas shopping.

Business planning for next year. Business continuing for this year.

Continuing with the learning center idea for my kids. (it's going well)

Looking forward to doing some fun Christmas reading, baking, and activities with the kids in December.

Getting ready to start yet another branch (or two) of my business.

Recent discovery of Barbara Sher's encouragement for people who want to do lots of different things and aren't willing to pick just one. I don't know if I'm that way to the extreme, but I sure do want to "do it all." Am in the middle of listening to a radio show where she talks about this and am enjoying it very much. Am also working my way through reading some strategies about this here.

Am enjoying the homeschooling more and have been getting back to my roots as far as my original educational philosophy goes. Have been reading John Holt's book Teach Your Own which is just as inspirational to me today as it was probably 10 years ago when I first read it.

And of course, many other things, widely varied and prone to the whims of the winds of inspiration. I feel like I'm getting the hang of handling schooling five, so it's always a happy thing for me to feel that I've improved in my plate-spinning abilities. :)

Not getting much personal blogging in these days. Sometimes it's for lack of time, sometimes for lack of inspiration, and sometimes because what I would want to say seems to complex to be able to express it. I'm sure that blogging will come back around to a front burner activity sooner or later. In the meantime, I hope you all have a Thanksgiving that lives up to it's name. :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Countdown to Christmas Activity Book!

When Amy Puetz showed me her Countdown to Christmas book, I was almost in tears within minutes. This book features a wonderful collection of old-fashioned holiday stories, activities, recipes, games, songs, and more---a grouping for every day from December 1-25.

This collection is just the kind of thing I like to do with my children. It's fun. It's interesting. The stories are great, and will also expose my children (and me!) to some old-fashioned language and concepts. The crafts look fun and manageable. Now that I've got this resource I'm looking forward to December 1 so we can get started with it. I really think that this is going to be our most fun December ever!

I strongly encourage you to go check it out for yourself. Amy has her book on sale at a GREAT price right now, PLUS she has an extra freebie book for you as well. You can see sample pages of the book and a list of stories, etc. here. I feel like this is going to be a wonderful thing for my family, and think it will be for your family too! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quick! This offer ends Friday!

So many people have been delighted to find out about Grandpa Read's Quiet Time Tales. This 12-volume DVD collection features classic children's stories read to your children by the friendly Grandpa Read. Each DVD is approximately 60 minutes long and features four stories plus an original song.

From now until Friday I have a special offer for you:
Purchase the 12 DVD collection for the discounted price of $129.99 (regularly $149.99) and you will receive the Quiet Time Tales Music CD FREE!

This is a special offer at my baby boutique.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heard This Song Today

Driving with my kids today we ran across this song while flipping through the radio stations. The lyrics grabbed me. I had never heard it before, but the social commentary was striking. I don't think I could tell you one other Kid Rock song. Kid Rock has never been on my radar until now. Thought he had some good things to say here, though, so here you go.

2009 Family Dear Calendar

If you are a fan of the sweet, homespun look of Marmee Dear's lovely store, you will loooove her all-new 2009 Family Dear Calendar! Each month features adorable and heartwarming pictures from vintage storybooks. Too cute!

This big 17" x 22" calendar has nice, big spaces to write in and is printed on sturdy paper stock to keep it looking good and holding up all year long.

Right now Marmee is offer a special deal for my readers! Use coupon code EJ2009 and you will get FREE SHIPPING on your calendar (or go ahead and order several for Christmas gifts).

You can check it out and order here.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Son is as Tall as Me

I just discovered this.
Still in shock.

That is all.

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Just a little head's up here, in case you don't know....there is a really fun 12 Days of Christmas giveaway going on here. I think today is day 6 or something, so there's still plenty of time for you to check the site every day and see what fun stuff they have. So far I have really enjoyed all of the goodies they have given away!

Fun Outing Yesterday

Yesterday the at-home kids and I made the trek out to visit the lovely Amy Scott and her six children. Amy and her family moved from Florida to rural KY in September, and now they have a beautiful 54 acres of woods and farm land. My children got to help feed chickens, hike around in the woods, and in general run around and play together, while Amy and I talked while tending to little ones and put dinner together.

Amy has done an amazing job--you can't even tell that they just moved in less than three months ago! I don't know how she does it. Her two littlest children are just 8 months old, and a two year old. I don't think I would have been able to accomplish half as much as she has in such a short time!

I've met a few "internet" friends in person over the years. It is always interesting and fun to get to put a real-life person and life together with what we learn about someone from their blog, web site, or posts in an egroup. It's so easy for us to imagine the lives of others that we get to know through the narrow lens of the internet (or even the narrow lens of Sunday mornings at church, or homeschool support group meetings, etc.). It's easy to forget that other people (even prolific bloggers) are not telling us everything about their life or their relationships. I used to read a blog where a reader accused the parents of only homeschooling their kids for two weeks out of an entire year, simply because the homeschooling hadn't been documented on the blog! (too bad there isn't some sort of litmus test for weeding out readers of one's blog that have such a perspective on things...) I've had people make up huge portions of my life that they actually knew nothing about--all based on some small snap shots of getting to know me in one setting. I enjoy the reminders that we are all just folks. :) We've all got the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the things we are good at and the things we are still working on. None of us is so perfect that the rest of us should be struggling with our life and wondering why we don't have it all together like so-and-so from the internet.

Now, none of that is to say that Amy was anything less than gracious, lovely, organized, generous, and kind. She was all of those things and I enjoyed my visit very much! Those are just musings that came to me as I was reflecting on the things I've learned over the years about keeping perspective on reality as opposed to some of the things we like to make up in our minds.

My best friend Sooz has a little thing she says. It's "What I'm making up about this is......" This is a really helpful tool, both for putting into perspective that one's own thoughts may be cobbled together, made-up things that we came up with based on what we know about something, and the realization that it is important to check out the facts of whether or not our imaginings are accurate. I've often experienced people in my life preferring to believe their imaginary version of my life over reality. This sometimes results in people thinking I'm way, way, way better at everything than I could ever hope to be, and other times results in people thinking I'm so far away from being good at what I do that I might as well pack it up and change course altogether. Somewhere in the middle is the truth, but we have to check our imaginings at the door to get to it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Learning Centers

Despite my lack of recent posts, you can rest assured that my life is plenty full and busy, with lots of stuff going on that might even be blog-worthy, if only I consistently had time to tell you about it! On the days when I'm really, really on top of the most important things, I'm lucky if I have even an hour or two to do the remaining business, blogging, emailing, and all of the other behind-the-scenes things that come up in the life of someone that manages children, Christmas shopping, educational issues, business issues, and keeping some relationships going.

After struggling for months to tutor 4 or 5 kids at the kitchen table simultaneously during school time, I decided to try using some learning centers to help the kids have plenty of educational and enriching things to do during school time, and allow me to only work directly with one or two kids at a time. For close to a week now I have been working on cleaning out some nooks and crannies of our family room so that I could somehow set up these centers/stations to keep the little hands and minds occupied.

For a few days I only had one station set up, and each night after the kids were in bed I placed something on that little table. It was fun to see kids gravitating toward that spot, sitting down and giving their attention to whatever was there. They loved it, and it reminded me of a past wish I had to make my home like one big all-you-can-learn-buffet, where everywhere a child turns is something that will feed their body, mind, or spirit. These little centers seem to do that in a way that nothing else has for us.

Yesterday was day one for going full force with the centers. Although our family room isn't huge, I was able to set up 9 different centers for the kids to use. Why so many? Because I knew they would need plenty of things to do while I worked with the kids that go s-l-o-w at their school work. That's why!

In the past I have tried this idea and set up stations that were a little heavy with stuff to do, and it seemed like the kids got a little bored with those after a short while. This time I decided to use some small tables and spaces, and just put out a very slim choice of what to do at that space. The other idea is to not have the same thing there every day.

Probably like a lot of other people, we have collected an awful lot of really neat learning resources that we rarely ever use. I've got tons of games, art books, craft stuff, cards, flash cards, cool learning resources, Leap Pads, Flashmaster, Highlights books with puzzles in them, and lots more. I'm so glad that I have a place to put these things, but the trick is that I am a person that tends to forget what resources we have if they aren't in front of me. So now I am just bringing out a few items from the collection each day, one per center area, and letting the kids enjoy them. After school time that stuff gets put away, and as I got through the day I keep my eyes open for what else is around, and pull some new stuff out to use the next day. Now the kids are grabbing stuff and saying, "Hey! We should use this for centers tomorrow!"

We have one round kid-size table. At a yard sale a couple months ago I bought two coffee tables for $10. One is rectangular, one is a small square. I bought these because I liked the shape of the design, and the price was right. But I didn't really have a need for them or know where they would go. Now they are working out really well for learning center stations. Plus I can mention the tables by their shape (circle, square, or rectangle) to tell where something is or where to suggest someone go next. I also use a small part of one coffee table, a corner of a couch, plus a regular size table down in this room. So far, so good.

When I showed the kids the stations, they were quite excited about it. In the morning I set everything up and then gave them a tour, explained how it would work, what the rules were, etc. One of the main things I stressed was that it was important to be very quiet so that the person working with me at the table could concentrate. As it turned out, we had near silence for several hours as we did school yesterday. Wow! It was really nice.

I also had each child pick out a silent reading book before we got going, so that if they got finished at their center before it was time to switch, they could sit and read on their own. I figured it made more sense to have them get their books before we got going, rather than have them all going back and forth to the book shelf at different times.

I set up the centers to be clutter-free. Here is some of what I had today:

On small round table I had a box with our connectagons in it. Later my daughter decided to add Dominoes to the table.

Another table had a phonics thing we have that's called Instalearn, which is mainly used by my early readers. For older kids at this station there were Mad Libs, and for my five year old there were some little learning cards that he likes to play with and can do on his own.

We had a cozy station on the corner of one couch for listening to audio books. Station included pillows, blanket, CD player with headphones, and two CDs with read-along books, plus our Bible verses CD to choose from.

Computer station with headphones was set up for the younger kids to go to to play phonics and reading games, etc.

Art station today had two learn-to-draw books (one geared toward youngers, one geared toward olders) and an assortment of crayons, colored pencils, markers, and paper.

One station had a puzzle.

One area (on the floor--I just put out a plastic tablecloth to create the space) for playing with wooden blocks (they have not played with those for a long time and they loved it):

I didn't really micromanage the timing of switching. Since there was plenty to choose from, and the atmosphere was very calm, the kids seemed to enjoy choosing a spot to go, and they played with it for plenty of time and then cleaned up before going on to the next. Some spots were a little more popular than others, so in those cases sometimes I asked the child if they would like to try another station in two minutes or whatever, to give them a gentle nudge to move on so that someone else could enjoy the station they were on.

Like so many things in my life, this will probably take a lot of mom-power to keep it going, so the chance of it falling to the wayside is pretty decent. I often feel that I'm taking a risk by telling about my latest and greatest idea since I feel like so many of them come and go at high speed. Still, I think this idea has merit as a tool to keep the wheels turning here at our school, and maybe it will give a few of you some ideas too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making the Holidays Family Friendly

The Holidays are supposed to be all about celebrating with the folks you love, yet all too often the focus is on the preparations instead of the people and the children especially seem to get lost in the shuffle. If holidays are stressful to you, or you come to the end of the day wondering where and what your children were doing all day, this book is for you. It is a reminder of why we celebrate, and how to celebrate in a more family-friendly way. Memories are made at every holiday, are they good ones or bad ones? Learn how to make them good ones for everyone.

Check out this new release ebook from my friend Penny Raine! It's at a super low price right now, too. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Check out this film!

If you enjoy the films from Franklin Springs Family Media, you are probably going to love this one from IVL Media. This documentary follows a pastor's family as God faithfully and miraculously provides for them through all sorts of situations. You can watch the trailer for it here.

Right now they are taking pre-orders, which includes free shipping. Looks like an uplifting night at the movies for the whole family!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What the....?!

So lately I've noticed an odd trend. And it has to do with the word "niche." As in, "find your niche" or "niche market."

Although I have always thought that the commonly considered correct pronunciation of the word is 'nich,' for some reason there are people using the word that like to pretend they are part French, I guess, because they are pronouncing it 'neesh.'

I double checked with and found that 'nich' is indeed the "right way" to say the word. But what do you think? nich or neesh? I simply must know.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a
change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he
recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the
chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that
little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely
qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this
country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this
really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.
We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or
not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle
ground here.

D ICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the
satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your
definition of crossing?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am
now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about
the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize
that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road
before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What
we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking
on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand t hat the chicken is having problems, which
is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the
chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of
life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive
across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken,
but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of
the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You
can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was
going. I had a standing order at the Farmers Market to sell my eggs
when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me an y
insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad?
Yes, the chicken cr ossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the
plain truth? That's why they call it the other side. Yes, my friends,
that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay,
too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination
that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases
like the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road.
It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road.
Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be
listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming
story of how it e xperienced a serious case of molting, and went on to
accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE : It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads
together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only
cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and
balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of
eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the
road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free Christmas ebook

Who wants a freebie? I've got one for you--a Christmas ebook with lots of great decorating and activity ideas, as well as recipes! Clickety-click!

And the winner is....

elizardbreath8! I'll be sending her book out shortly. :)